I am a highly organized person. My mother? Not so much. Adventurous and willing to try something new, yes. But organized? I think not. Some day I will show you her studio. It’s truly frightening.
While my parents were away I ransacked their cupboards in an attempt to make sense of the chaos that reigned within. I’d like to share with you three simple tips that will make negotiating your own spice cupboards or pantries a little bit easier.
#1: Bags are Bad
As I have said, my mother is always willing to try new things, and as a result I’m pretty sure she owns every spice imaginable. Some of them she keeps just for the jar they came in.
The problem is that all these bags (and boxes) clutter up your space. You push them aside when looking for something else and the next thing you know, they have been shoved to the back of the cupboard, upside-down, and have emptied their contents into the crevices of the shelf.
The simple solution to this is to put all your stuff in jars. Think of it as recycling. That pasta sauce jar you just emptied would be handy holding your collection of pinto beans, yes? My mother has a vast collection of vintage glass jars, as well, so it was worth it to put them to good use.
I prefer glass jars for the obvious reason that the contents are always visible, but also because glass cleans easily and doesn’t absorb odors. This means that when you transfer the contents of one half-empty jar into a smaller jar so you can use the bigger one for something else, all you will need is a quick rinse and you’re set.
#2: Label EVERYTHING
As I mentioned before, my mother likes to try new things, and we have a myriad of spices in the cupboard. You can trust me on this: you may think you’ll be able to identify something later on by smell and taste and colour alone, but you’ll be wrong. You’ll be very wrong. Remember that spices lose their potency over time and more than once I have mistakenly added ground oregano when I meant to add corriander. It does happen. So make sure you clearly label all your little jars.
Glass jars also lend themselves very well to my labeling technique. Instead of using adhesive labels that peel and which eventually need to be soaked off when the jar is empty, I write on the glass itself with a permanent marker. I don’t have to worry about peeling or tearing or fading, and when I’m ready to re-purpose the jar for another spice, a quick rub with the scrubby side of the sponge and it’s gone.
#3: Arrange with Purpose
When it comes to your cupboards, you have to accept the fact that your Martha Stewart prowess in kitchen aesthetics does not apply to what goes on behind closed cupboard doors. While it may seem like a good idea to organize your things alphabetically, or even by colour (I’m looking at you Cait), this will not do you any good when you are cooking for twelve people and you can’t find the yeast. Most of us just don’t have the space to be THAT organized.
Organize your items by usage. This means that the stuff you use most often should be in front, even if it’s the biggest item. Things you use all the time can even be kept on the counter, ready to go (see our Salt and Pepper Dish). The stuff you don’t use as often can be shoved to the back — but not to fret: if it’s nicely labeled in a clear glass jar you will be able to find it any time!